Notes from Windward: #66


Rainy Days

the fall rains come in earnest

     The weather folks tell us that we get an average of twenty-six inches of rain a year here at Windward. That's a bit more than two feet which translates to a bit more than fifteen gallons per square foot. This past week, we've gotten about half our average rainfall for the year. I expect that there's more to come, but so far it's been impressive and it's always a deep down relief to see the end of the dry season, to know for sure that the water table will renew itself and the great wheel of life is primed for another go-round.

     The rains are part of a weather phenomonon locals call "the Pinapple Express." The satellite maps show a solid band of clouds starting down around the Hawaiian islands and running northeast towards the Oregon/Washington coast. As the stream hits first the Coastal mountains and then the Cascades, it dumps its moisture in a steady flow of hard rain that drenches everything until trees start to fall over and the hills start to slide down onto mountain roads.

the swollen Klickitat

     A number of friends have heard about the heavy rains and wondered if we were being affected, and other than as a reminder that we need to do more work on getting our rain collection system operational, the answer would have to be "not much." The rain has required us to shift our timetables on some of the stuff we're working on, but there's always paperwork that needs doing, and this has been the sort of rainy, cool days when the thought of staying inside near a warm fire has been attractive.

     While this rain pattern can be inconvenient in the fall, it's an entirely different situation when this happens in the early spring. Then, the rain falls on the snow pack which eagerly soaks it up like a sponge. If the rain continues long enough, the snow gets so heavy that it can break roofs and snap off the tops of trees.

our first metal arch greenhouse--spring of '96

     Twice we've had greenhouse type structures collapse under a wet snow load, which is part of the reason why we installed those support poles in Vermadise last week. We also have aircraft cable and turnbuckles that we can add to provide a bit of insurance when the weather conditions make such heavy loads a possibility.

     And if it keeps on even longer then there comes a point when the snow turns to slush and runs off down the hills into the river, and that's when we have to worry about flooding.

     Since we're 1,200 above the river, we don't actually have to worry about being flooded ourselves, but the sixteen mile stretch of road that winds along the banks of the Klickitat from here to the Columbia is a different matter entirely. In the spring of '96 we had a spring snow, rain and flood combination that washed out over four miles of that road, something which made it difficult for us to get to town for the six months it took them to rebuild. The hope is that those sections of Highway 142 have been raised enough to withstand the next flood, but you never know. As they say, you do your best but never forget that Nature bats last.

wild turkeys crossing the road near Windward

     Windward is located at the point where the landscape transitions from rain forest to dry highlands, so the area around the Klickitat is fruitful enough that flocks of wild turkeys flourish in our woods. They generally don't come right into our main area except for late in the winter when they're having a hard time finding food, but we often see them on our walks. They seem to know that they're safe around here, at least until we run out of grain-fed peacock to eat.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 66